Soundcraft Vi6™ and Si3 digital mixing consoles, respectively.
“Earlier this year we were able to secure a production budget to carry consoles, so we started shopping for a desk to rent,” says Rich Caldwell, Flyleaf’s front of house engineer. “We wanted to go analog at the time, but it’s just not practical for a multi-band bill and limited trailer space. After several lengthy conversations with Vince Kapchinski, the owner of Backstage Sound and Lighting [of Bryan, Texas], we decided to take out the Vi6. He kept raving about how ‘analog’ the Vi6 digital sounded and insisted that we give it a try.”
For the first leg of this tour, the Flyleaf crew used the Vi6 at monitor world. “We really wanted the band to hear what we were spending their money on,” Caldwell notes. “They are very frugal so it was important to us that they felt like they were getting their money’s worth. They immediately fell in love. It’s one thing for a bunch of engineers to geek-out about the minute differences in desks, but it was really rewarding when the band could really hear and ‘feel’ the difference that this console makes. The desk just sounds real.”
“The Soundcraft definitely has a warmer tone,” says Sean Patrick, Flyleaf’s monitor engineer. “There is an ‘openness’ to the console that we haven’t found with other digitals. The mix is very reactive and gives you the feeling that all the energy they put into the performance comes out in the final mix. Plus, the onboard Lexicon reverbs are very realistic, so it allows me to build a big spatial environment in the in-ears without it sounding like I just dumped a bunch of reverb on the mix.”
The next step, Caldwell continues, was to transition towards creating a virtual soundcheck. “I really wanted to have the precision of building my show file on studio monitors before the tour started so I knew it was right from the beginning,” he says. “Plus, we wanted to show the band a real return-on-investment by freeing them up from a traditional soundcheck and use that time to write and record on stage.”
This coincided with the band’s discussions with its record label about recording a live show for future DVD or CD release. “They originally wanted a recording truck or mobile setup to come out, but we felt confident that we could capture the audio ourselves and then just hand them a hard drive of the whole tour,” Caldwell says. “Using existing budget, we purchased a Pro Tools HD rig and added a MADI-to-Digilink interface. That instantly turned the desk into a 64-track mobile studio with full virtual soundcheck capability. We hadn’t seen anyone else use this setup before and we were eager to take it for a test drive. We captured a few shows at the end of the previous tour and then took the desk home during the break to start building FOH mixes from Pro Tools. The Vi6 went to FOH mix-ready without ever seeing a band member.”
For the second leg of the tour, Sean Patrick had to swap from the Vi6 to the Si3. “I figured out a way to bus the tracks out analog from the Vi6 directly into the Si3, so the day before we left for tour we sat both consoles next to each other at the shop and I built all my in-ear mixes. Next time we can add a MADI line down the snake from FOH and hit both desks for virtual soundcheck simultaneously with only one Pro Tools computer. All we need to add to the Si3 would be the MADI option card. I was pleasantly surprised to hear no drop-off in the sound quality with the Si3 coming from the Vi6,” Patrick says. “That is pretty amazing considering the little desk is about one-quarter of the price.”
Caldwell adds that virtual soundcheck has saved about two hours per day. “At the beginning of this tour it yielded an unexpected benefit--the band was able to write and record an entire EP on the Vi6/Pro Tools rig during the time previously allotted for soundcheck. We were able to load up the producer’s [Mark Lewis] show file, have the band play their regular live rig and capture the whole performance on HD. He was floored at how well it worked and the band never got bogged down in technical delays. Almost everything on the EP was recorded on the Vi6. It really has fantastic preamps and A/D-D/A converters. The EP will be released in December so you can listen for yourself.”
The EP, Remember To Live, is available in stores or via download.
For more information on Backstage Sound & Lighting, please visit www.backstagesound.com
HARMAN (www.harman.com) designs, manufactures and markets a wide range of audio and infotainment solutions for the automotive, consumer and professional markets – supported by 15 leading brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon® and Mark Levinson®. The Company is admired by audiophiles across multiple generations and supports leading professional entertainers and the venues where they perform. More than 20 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and infotainment systems. HARMAN has a workforce of about 11,000 people across the Americas, Europe and Asia, and reported sales of $3.2 billion for the last twelve months ended March 31, 2010. The Company’s shares are traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol NYSE:HAR.
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